Gowanda Board of Education holds budget hearing

GOWANDA – The Gowanda Board of Education gave the public an opportunity to comment on its proposed budget at its annual budget hearing recently.

The proposed budget totals $28,208,720, a 2.99 percent increase over the current budget. The proposed tax levy is an increase of 1.46 percent, which does not exceed the tax cap. The estimated tax rate per 1,000 dollars of assessed value is $15.20, a 22 cent increase over last year.

“That is an estimated number for a couple of reasons; one, we do not have any information on what the current assessed values will be for the 2014 tax year, nor do we know what the final equalization rates will be for the fall. That is a tentative rate and will fluctuate based on what the actual assessed values are, taxable assessed values and what the equalization rates are,” School Business Administrator Joelle Woodward said.

The proposed budget also includes staffing cuts; one teaching assistant, two elementary teachers and one Seneca language teacher are being proposed to be eliminated. The cutting of elementary teachers is due to low enrollment and would affect grades 4 and 5. The teaching assistant is no longer required due to a change in a student’s Individualized Educational Plan.

“There are staff reductions. These are all due in large part due to enrollment projections for ’14-15. Over the course of the past three years, we had the reducing of the number of K-6 teachers in the district because of enrollment. We’re continuing that trend here. … The current sizes will be 20 to 1 in grade 4 and 21 to 1 in grade 5,” Superintendent Charles Rinaldi said.

Along with the proposed budget, residents will be voting on a proposition for the district to purchase two 66-passenger buses from transportation reserve accounts at a cost not to exceed $225,417. This will have no impact on the tax levy. The district will also trade in two full-sized buses, which are both 2007 models with 117,429 and 120,590 miles. These buses also are available for state aid and would be reimbursed more than $202,000 in future school years.

Resident Joe Vogtli asked what the district would have to do if the increase of state aid and the usage of reserves were not included in the proposed budget.

The district is using $1,809,351 in appropriated fund balance and $758,552 from reserves in the proposed budget. Woodward said one unknown revenue source is Native American tuition reimbursement. This year, the district is projecting over a $75,000 decrease after seeing the reimbursement increase over the past few school years.

“If for some reason we had a take back in state aid, even a mid-year take back, … there is the possibility there will be a state aid take back or reduction in 2015-16 (school year). All the indications that we’ve heard and read about moving forward is that state aid is supposed to continue to increase for 2015-16 and at some point … state aid is supposed to be at the levels it should have been the last five years,” Woodward said.

Resident Janet Vogtli asked about privatization of cafeteria services and bus services. Woodward said she could not comment directly on the cafeteria program, but said the program is working toward being more self-sustaining.

“Our school lunch manager is very diligent about making sure that we’re using our resources as efficiently as possible. He’s done a lot of work to streamline the work force and we have made reductions. The losses we have been realizing over the last couple of years have been reduced significantly,” Woodward said.

Vogtli also asked if there was an increase for non-contract employees proposed in the budget. Woodward said there is a 3.75 percent increase proposed for those employees. She noted many in the private sector are not receiving raises.

“I find it unconscionable that the school will keep giving raises. The only ways you guys were able to keep this budget less than 3 percent is because you had more money coming in …,” Vogtli said.

Voters will also be voting on three three-year terms for the board of education. Joseph DeCarlo, Mary Stratton, Peter Delpriore and Mark Nephew are all running. Polls will be open on May 20 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., in the middle school library.

Comments on this article may be sent to smcdonnell@observertoday.com